By OMAR SHAMOUT
CARSON, Calif. — With only one year left on his contract, LA Galaxy and current U.S. Men’s national team defender Omar Gonzalez refused to close the door on extending his stay in Los Angeles beyond next season. But he said there’s been no new contract offer from the club as of yet.
“We’ve both come to an understanding that as it gets closer to the end of the year maybe we’ll talk about that,” the MLS Cup MVP said. “But as of right now there have been no talks.”
When and if those talks do begin with the Galaxy, Gonzalez said he might be tempted to stay if the right offer, such as a designated player slot, were on the table.
“I’d definitely have to take a look at the contract.”
Galaxy fans might be relieved to know that no offers have come in from overseas during this month’s transfer window either.
“If the opportunity’s there, I’ll take a look at it,” Gonzalez said. “None have come up.”
His club coach, Bruce Arena, confirmed that no extension has been offered, but said the Galaxy “would be glad to talk to Omar and his agent about extending his contract,” adding that any talk of offering him DP status would be “putting the cart before the horse.”
Gonzales’ willingness to consider an extension is a change in his stance on staying with the Galaxy. During the regular season, Gonzalez told SBI that he planned on playing out his current contract and weighing his options abroad.
“I’m going to play out this contract and then figure it out from there whether I sign with MLS, sign in Europe or sign in Mexico,” Gonzalez told SBI in October. “It’s to be determined.
Should forward Landon Donovan decide to return this season, the Galaxy would have one DP slot left after the departure of David Beckham. Speculation is rife, however, that a top international midfielder will be brought in brought in, with Arena confirming today that he’s talked with both Frank Lampard and Kaka about joining the squad.
If Donovan opts not to return, Robbie Keane would be the Galaxy’s only DP left, leaving two slots open. If Donovan stays only one more year, that could potentially free up another DP slot for Gonzalez if the Galaxy chose to offer it.
Gonzalez was a key component of the Galaxy’s championship run. In the 20 MLS regular and post-season games he played in since his return from a torn ACL on July 4, the Galaxy allowed 21 total goals. In the previous 17 games, they conceded 27.
Arena said today that his center back depth chart season would likely consist of Gonzalez, Tommy Meyer, A.J. DeLaGarza and Leonardo, who Arena declared fully fit. Arena announced David Junior Lopes was unlikely to return to the team.
One of the biggest hurdles LA overcame in its championship run was eliminating the team’s archrival San Jose Earthquakes by a 3-2 aggregate score after going down, 1-0, in the first leg.
Following the clubs’ regular-season matchup on Oct. 21, Gonzalez let loose a torrent of criticism toward the Earthquakes. He called their physical style of play “embarrassing” and referred to San Jose players as “a bunch of jokes.”
When Jurgen Klinsmann announced his 25-man roster on Jan. 6, Gonzalez learned that two of those “jokes” would be his teammates at camp. But Gonzalez said he was never concerned about possible tensions, and no one, including DeLaGarza, felt the need to address it in conversation.
“At the end of the day, all four of us are pretty good guys,” Gonzalez said. “Once we’re off the field, we don’t really talk about that at all.”
In order to get himself fit for a potential call up to the national team squad, Gonzalez said he didn’t run for an entire month following MLS Cup, choosing instead to focus on weight training to stay in shape. He’s been happy that Klinsmann and the coaching staff have allowed the players to ease back into the swing of things.
“Going into camp I thought it was going to be a lot of running,” he said, “but the focus has been on getting your body back and trying to focus on soccer specifics.”